Copyright

Characters of Romeo and Juliet: Description & Analysis

Characters of Romeo and Juliet: Description & Analysis
Coming up next: Introduction to Robert Browning: Life and Poems

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Two Families
  • 0:30 Romeo
  • 3:22 Juliet
  • 6:11 Analysis
  • 7:25 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jamie Stamm
The classic play 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare has deeply impacted hearts throughout the centuries. Read on to better understand the nature and motivations of these two famous lovers.

Two Families

Romeo is the only son of the Montague family, and Juliet, the only daughter of the Capulet family. As the play begins, the conflict is stated immediately in the prologue to Act I:

'Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.'

Romeo

A family feud has raged through the streets of the Italian city of Verona for many years; so long, in fact, that the Montagues and Capulets don't even remember who started it. Romeo, the only son of Lord and Lady Montague, is approximately 16 years old. As the story opens, we find he is deeply infatuated with a young woman named Rosaline who refuses to return his interest. Romeo is a sensitive young man. He literally loses sleep and his appetite over Rosaline's rejection, and he often confides in his local priest, Friar Laurence.

Shakespeare immediately draws the audience into the story through the use of identification. Almost everyone has experienced unrequited love at one time or another. In fact, Lord Montague observes that 'Many a morning hath he there been seen, {w}ith tears augmenting the fresh morning dew, {a}dding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs. . .' It is clear that Romeo literally weeps over Rosaline, pining for her. Romeo's family, including his cousin Benvolio, is understandably concerned over his mental health.

When an opportunity arises for Romeo to attend a masquerade party at the Capulet's home, albeit in disguise and uninvited, his friends urge him to go, hoping he will find a new girl to admire. Romeo only agrees to go because Rosaline will be there. Romeo is obviously only infatuated with Rosaline, as is clearly evident when he sees Juliet at the party. He immediately forgets Rosaline and falls in love with Juliet, saying in Act 1, Scene 5:

'O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night

Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;

Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!

So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,

As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.

The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand,

And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.

Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!

For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.'

Romeo asks the questions, 'Did I even love anyone before I saw Juliet?' Rosaline's role in Romeo and Juliet is definitely short-lived. She is now forgotten, and the melancholy Romeo only has eyes for Juliet. The question of true love versus infatuation begs to be asked as Romeo so quickly forgets the woman he has been weeping over for days, and immediately fixates on a new love interest. It has been said that puppy love is real to the puppy, and Romeo believes himself to be deeply in love with Juliet, enough to ask her to marry him that same night.

Juliet

Although many girls married quite young in those days, Juliet is only 13. In modern society, she is barely a teenager, and many would agree, far too young to even consider marriage, let alone a serious relationship. However, her own father and mother, the Lord and Lady Capulet consider her to be of marrying age. Before the party, her mother urges Juliet to consider marrying Count Paris, a man she barely knows, to which Juliet wisely replies in Act 1, Scene 2: 'I'll look to like, if looking liking move {b}ut no more deep will I endart mine eye {t}han your consent gives strength to make it fly.' Juliet agrees to see if Paris is attractive. However, at the party, Juliet is immediately attracted to Romeo, and they flirt by touching palms, pretending the palms of their hands to be lips, and eventually kiss.

After the party, Romeo ditches his friends who still understandably believe he is in love with Rosaline, jumps over the Capulet garden wall, and hides under Juliet's balcony hoping to catch a glimpse of his newly found love. He is then rewarded as Juliet walks out onto the balcony and speaks of her love for Romeo. By this time, both are well aware that they are in trouble, as one is a Montague and the other is a Capulet. We love this famous balcony scene for its sweetness and poetic appeal. As Juliet enters the balcony, Romeo states (Act 2, Scene 2):

'But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief,

That thou her maid art far more fair than she:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support